In preparation for a gallery installation next year, I've been researching how butterflies have been depicted in art history... and I've been blown away by the work of Dutch Golden Age artist Otto Marseus van Schrieck.
Painting at the end of the 17th century, he made famous what is known as the 'sottobosco' genre, or the forest floor still life. It was the first time that an artist had concentrated on what was generally perceived to be the lowlife of the natural world - snakes, caterpillars, rodents, snails and butterflies. He painted these creatures with astute scientific realism, against a background of almost pure black. Poetically, he occasionally pressed the wings of real butterflies into the wet oil paint, causing the finished painting to shimmer from the darkness.
I have been totally inspired by these paintings, and have created two large companion pieces in response to them - one black, one white. Both contain Victorian and Edwardian specimens. I think they may be the most favourite of all time...